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Picture House, Shiraz VIP, The Soundhouse, Johnstown Village, Naas, 18th February 2000

The Irish music industry, in time-honoured fashion, continues to be urban-centric. More specifically, the Irish music media consistently refuses to lounge anywhere less 'cosmopolitan' than Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick. And that's a pity, because, as a result, the self-satisfied miss events like Picture House at Shiraz in Johnstown.

The newly-opened bar is an extension to the Soundhouse and looks something the Quays in Galway - you can almost smell the wood. There's a hint of something almost ecclesiastical in the decor too. And judging by opening night, Shiraz can look forward to a rosy future.

In fact, if it wasn't for the slightly younger audience and the almost complete absence of egocentric posers (always a good thing) this could have been any large Dublin pub. But this is tiny Johnstown where people travel from places like Naas, Kill and Rathcoole to see their heroes and enjoy live music. Not the over-hyped, over-paid, saccharine sweet and overly plastic pop groups that currently strangle the charts reducing their worthiness to nil, but the time-honoured bands that tour for a living and aspire to creating the most perfect three and a half minute pop song ever. Bands like Picture House, for example, who may be seeking success but aren't willing to dress a certain way, sing a certain way, dance a certain way and behave a certain way in order to achieve it. And the punters are still willing to pay £10 for the privilege of seeing them.

Picture House, like Robbie Williams, make sing-along pop music and while some songs are as memorable as the last time you tied your shoelace, they certainly have their moments. 'Sunburst' is the most obvious example, the song remaining in the charts for months and the simple video using more sets of clothes than any other since A House's 'Endless Art'.

Songs like 'She', 'Heavenly Day' and 'We have all the time in the world' also made an instant impact on Irish radio audiences. But therein lies the band's problem. Several of their singles have gone into the charts, but not all of them make enough of a lasting impression for them to be truly successful. The average music fan doesn't hum 'Sunburst' anymore while waiting at the bus stop on a Friday evening. It's only when their songs can stay in people's heads for months that they will have reached their creative peak.

The fact that the songs greeted with the most enthusiasm by the crowd are those mentioned above is merely indicative of this problem. They played a total of 17 songs, yet only the singles registered a lasting impression. Perhaps this was because they had to abandon their sound check before it was finished because the crowd started pouring in, perhaps not. That said their fans loved them and nobody I spoke too had a critical thing to say about them.

Local Tara Walsh, for example, pointed out that the venue had a reputation for getting good bands, thought the band were "great and very sexy". What more can I say?

Neil Callanan

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